Generating predictions: Lesion evidence on the role of left inferior frontal cortex in rapid syntactic analysis

Maria Jakuszeit, Sonja A. Kotz, Anna S. Hasting

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    A well-documented phenomenon in event-related electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) studies on language processing is that syntactic violations of different types elicit negativities as early as 100 msec after the violation point. Recently, these responses have been associated with activations in or very close to sensory cortices, suggesting the involvement of basic sensory mechanisms in the detection of syntactic violations. The present study investigated whether intact auditory cortices and adjacent temporal regions are sufficient to generate early syntactic negativities in the auditory event-related potential (ERP). We tested ten clinically non-aphasic patients with left inferior frontal lesions, but intact temporal cortices in a passive auditory ERP paradigm that had reliably elicited early negativities in response to violations of subject-verb agreement and word category in the past. Subject-verb agreement violations failed to elicit early grammaticality effects in these patients, whereas a group of ten age-matched controls showed a reliable early negativity. This finding supports the idea that sensory aspects of syntactic analysis as reflected in early syntactic negativities critically depend on top-down predictions generated by the left inferior frontal cortex. In contrast, word category violations elicited a small, marginally significant early negativity both in controls and patients, suggesting an additional involvement of temporal regions in early phrase structure processing. In an additional auditory oddball experiment patients showed a regular P300, but no N2b component in response to deviant tones, indicating that their deficit in generating sensory predictions extends beyond the language domain. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2861-2874
    Number of pages13
    Issue number10
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013


    • Early syntactic negativity
    • ERP
    • Morphosyntax
    • Phrase structure
    • Sensory prediction


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